Foreign Policy Blogs

Ten Months On

The BBC reports today from South Ossetia that not much has been done for the South Ossetians whose homes were destroyed or damaged in last August’s war.  The Georgian minority long ago fled or were forced out.  The South Ossetians are left totally dependent on their protectors in Moscow — who were quick ten months  ago to recognize South Ossetia’s “independence,” but much slower to deliver material aid.

Several points find unfortunate reflection ten months on.  Last August, presidential candidate John McCain pronounced that “We [Americans?] are all Georgians” and vowed that as President he would help Georgia withstand Russian pressure.  Obama, while resolute in supporting Georgia, was more measured in his rhetoric.  Now today Senator McCain trained his sights southward, criticizing President Obama for not being more vocal in support of the beleaguered Iranian opposition.

The problem with vigorous rhetoric is that those who employ it often get carried away and wind up in the politically untenable position of promising more than they can deliver.  Or, in the case of Iran  today, stern public admonitions from a U.S. President would only give Iran’s rulers ammunition to use in their propaganda war against the opposition.  Obama was wise to realize that.

One other reminder.  In the long run, Moscow plays her cards unsentimentally.  Russia need not rush to follow military intervention with civilian assistance in South Ossetia.  The Ossetians have nowhere else to go.  Besides, the money can be used better in Central Asia, paying off the Kirghiz leadership for their agreement to cancel the U.S. lease on a Kirghiz air base.  That’s change Moscow can believe in.

 

Author

Mark Dillen

Mark Dillen heads Dillen Associates LLC, an international public affairs consultancy based in San Francisco and Croatia. A former Senior Foreign Service Officer with the US State Department, Mark managed political, media and cultural relations for US embassies in Rome, Berlin, Moscow, Sofia and Belgrade, then moved to the private sector. He has degrees from Columbia and Michigan and was a Diplomat-in-Residence at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins. Mark has also worked for USAID as a media and political advisor and twice served as election observer and organizer for OSCE in Eastern Europe.

Areas of Focus:
US Government; Europe; Diplomacy

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